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Sheyenne students blanket PTSD victims

Jenna Curran, Kristina Hollerung, Abigail Merseth and Taylor Kujawa hold blankets they made to be donated to veterans. Emily Driscoll / The Forum

Kristina Hollerung has seen how post traumatic stress disorder affects returning soldiers; she has family members who have struggled with it. It's motivated her to help veterans get the resources they need to readjust to "normal life" after serving in the military.

Hollerung and three other Sheyenne High School sophomores have been gathering in a basement to make tie blankets. It's part of a school project they call "Love in a Blanket." Taylor Kujawa, Kristina Hollerung, Jenna Curran and Merseth were tasked by one of their teachers to volunteer for an organization of their choice and they decided to help veterans.

Tie blankets are warm, soft and easy to make. They're made of two equal sections of fleece fabric placed on top of one another and connected by tying strips along the edges.

Karen Hollerund, Kristina's mom, said she called the local VA hospital to learn veterans' needs.

Based on that information, they set a goal of $1,000 to purchase fabric to make tie blankets, create care packages and offer healthcare donations.

Each blanket has a unique design.

"Basically, we went out and picked the fabric out and then I did the pinning and they're responsible for tying it," Karen Hollerung said. It's a group effort.

To collect monetary donations, they reached out to local businesses, strangers and personal friends. They were overwhelmed with generosity, like a woman who gave $20 when she learned of their cause while fabric shopping.

The group plans to bring their blankets and donations to the VA hospital on Friday, Dec. 14.

"It's interesting to see when you make something and give it to them, how happy they actually are. Seeing their face and their expression, it's kind of a gift," Abby Merseth said.

She said she'd done volunteer work to help the homeless and others in need, but this will be her first time donating to veterans.

"Everyone needs help," Abby Merseth said. "The veterans, we decided that they gave up their time to fight for us, so we should give up our time to help them out."

There are 13 VA facilities in North Dakota offering health care, housing assistance, psychiatric care and job training.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran homelessness has declined by almost 50 percent since 2010. Relentless outreach to veterans in need has been one effective method to aid in the cause. There were 151 homeless veterans in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

"I want to keep doing volunteer work and finding different groups to help out that need it," Hollerung said.

The four have already begun brainstorming more ways to help the community. They say their next endeavors will likely involve animal shelters and homeless shelters.